Two Poems by Mark Thalman

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At the State Maximum Security Prison

There are no elevators.
They can’t be secured.
To get to classrooms on the third floor,
everyone takes the stairs.

Before class and during breaks,
it is a status symbol for inmates
to talk to someone from the outside.
For a few moments, they get to experience
what it feels to be “normal.”

While teaching MacBeth,
the witches foretell the future
and nothing is normal.

Then there is a knock, knock, knock
from the other side of the wall
where there isn’t supposed to be
anyone, unless you’re Spiderman
crawling up a blank facade.

Everyone freezes and stares at me,
waiting to see what I will do.

I walk to the board
and knock back three times,
returning the signal, if it is a signal,
and nonchalantly continue where I left off
as if nothing happened.


Accidental Coincidences

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
-Albert Einstein

If my father had not fumbled the handoff
from his father when they were building
a stone wall, I would not have been born.
The doctors did not want to operate
on his foot, until he stopped growing,
as not to stunt the growth.

When he was drafted during W.W. II,
he couldn’t finish long hikes, because
his big toe wouldn’t bend
due to calcium deposits
solidified like concrete.

My father was given an honorable discharge
and entered the university, a paradise.
Women outnumbered men six to one.

On their first date, my parents attended a dance.
Half way through the evening,
Dad said he’d be right back.
That’s when he walked on stage,
and prearranged with the drummer,
a longtime friend, switched places
and played In the Mood.

My parents only wanted two children.
If my mother had not had a miscarriage,
before having my sister, there would not be
any “To be or not to be” for me.

It’s no wonder that the ancient Greek’s
believed in Fate. If I turn left and she turns right
the encounter evaporates into oblivion . . .

never to find out we share the same birthday,
enjoy solving murder mysteries,
and love the French Impressionists.

Now, after thirty-three years of marriage,
I wake up to this happy accident that is us,
and together we have another day on this earth.
white man with receding hairline, fray hair, rimless glasses and blue button up shirt

Mark Thalman is the author of Stronger Than the Current, The Peasant Dance, and Catching the Limit. His work has been widely published for five decades. His poems have appeared in the Paterson Review, The MacGuffin, Pedestal Magazine, and Valparaiso Review, among many others. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. Thalman retired from the public schools after teaching English and Creative Writing for 35 years. Besides writing, he enjoys painting landscapes and wildlife art. He lives with his wife and their Shetland Sheep Dog in Forest Grove, Oregon.  Please visit markthalman.com.

Feature Image: “Allround” Koepelgevangenis (Panipticon-style prison), Arnhem, The Netherlands, from Rob Oo from NL licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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